Monday, August 06, 2007

GUI Design Problems in Microsoft software

Every journey no matter how long, starts with just a step. On that note, lets start this journey, of how I think many of the GUI designs of MS software just plain sucks, and how I die a little more each day as I struggle with using Outlook and other such bloatware that just gets in my way. Let me recant, and introduce myself. For those who don't know me, I'm just another middle class salaryman working in japan in the finance industry with a background in engineering and computer science. My degree is in engineering (from UWaterloo) and the thing that us engineers pride ourselves on (besides being able to drink heavily) is that unlike computer science majors at our beloved school we cared about the actual application of technology in the real world, while the CS guys hoo and hawed over the mathematical beauty of their creations and how wonderful and elegant their solutions to a problem were. Here is the problem. Microsoft (henceforth known as 'MS') seems to like to hire our CS grads, and those same geeks that loved to show off how they managed to write a doubly recursive self mutating widget to display 'hello world' in 17 languages ends up writing code for MS Office. Big, big problem. At least that's how my theory goes. My 'love' for MS software knows little bias. I've used it for years since the days of windows 3.1, but it has only been after taking on a job where computer science wasn't the primary product I began to notice how inefficient MS software was making my life out to be. I started a thread on a local forum, just so that I could vent my frustrations to the world, which soon became the longest active thread on the whole board, with over 20,000 views. Bad GUI Design I'll let the thread speak for itself. There are many many posts, most of them mine, but all of them about GUI design failures, and although not all are limited to MS software, outlook definitely is the winner of most number of gui design screw ups. Take a gander. So there, that was the first step. The first step with me opening up my critiques of the most heavily used productivity software in the world, and why it needs to improve a lot more if people are going to become more proficient at doing their REAL JOBS instead of fighting with the productivity tools constantly. Read the thread. And keep your eyes peeled for more news on this blog. I have had it up to here with MS software inefficiencies and blatant disregard for real people using their software in real ways. Instead they write their programs to account for worse case scenarios and rarely encountered special cases, or try to cram every last widget with the maximum level of affordance, and in doing so, make the tool completely unusable or impractical, or just darned frustrating to use. Here is a sample of a discussion I had with a fellow programmer (who is a CS major) about the problem with outlook tasks. (and subsequently, time widgets) The good news is that it has a happy ending with us agreeing on what would be an improved version of the widget. MS are you listening? Discussion about Outlook Tasks

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